A special thank you to Michael Brophy for his help with updating this article.
What is it like living in Calgary? Where is Calgary in Canada? How does the cost of living in Calgary compare with other cities?
We have compiled answers to some of the most pressing questions you might have about the city, so check this section out before you research the city further.
- Where is Calgary in Canada?
- About Calgary
- Calgary Weather
- Culture in Calgary
- Living Costs in Calgary
- Transit in Calgary
- Dining out in Calgary
- Calgary Nightlife
- Calgary Positives & Negatives
Where is Calgary in Canada?
Calgary is the largest city in the province of Alberta, Canada.
Alberta borders the United States, with the province of British Columbia to the west, Saskatchewan to the east and the Northwest Territories to the north. Calgary sits within the elevated prairies just east of the Rocky Mountains, where the Bow and Elbow rivers meet.
From here, in Alberta’s Grassland region, the prairies begin rolling east through central Canada. Calgary is frequently referred to as the gateway to the dramatic Rocky Mountains. World famous skiing, and the town of Banff, are only a 90-minute drive to the west.
Calgary has a population of almost 1.3 million people. It’s the third-largest municipality and fourth-largest metropolitan area in Canada. According to the 2016 Census, it experienced the biggest population growth of any metropolitan area in the country since 2011, and its residents also have the youngest average age of any major Canadian city.
Calgary is larger than Edmonton, the province’s capital situated approximately two and a half hours to the north. It is the major urban centre for the entire southern half of the province of Alberta. It’s surrounded by an area of profound beauty, with an unspoiled, resource-rich natural environment.
Economic activity in Calgary is mostly centered on the petroleum industry, agriculture and tourism. Alberta has the lion’s share of Canada’s oil industry. Its reserves, in the form of oil sands, are estimated to be second only to Saudi Arabia’s. Most petroleum companies in Canada have their headquarters based in Calgary, making it one of Canada’s wealthiest cities. The economic reliance on this industry results in ‘boom’ and ‘bust’ cycles, and current low oil prices mean that the city in the midst of recovery from recession. The city’s unemployment rate is currently higher than many other Canadian cities as a result.
In 1988, Calgary became the first Canadian city to host the Winter Olympic Games. These games continue to be a benchmark for future host countries on how to run a successful Olympics. The Games pioneered the use of community volunteers — something Canadians pride themselves on. Calgary continues to be known for its ‘can-do’ attitude, and business-friendly environment. In fact, the city had been considering a bid for the 2026 Games, but the city’s residents voted against this proposal in late 2018.
With its focus on the oil industry and proud ‘Cowboy’ traditions, you’ll often hear Alberta referred to as the ‘Texas’ of Canada. By extension, Calgary is often called ‘Cowtown’ and the Calgary Stampede, which lasts ten days every July, is known as the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”. It is a rodeo where cowboys from different places gather to showcase their talents.
And it’s not just for those living in Calgary in Canada – it’s a major tourist attraction too. Hotels and flights get very busy and expensive during this time, so book early. Most of downtown Calgary shuts down during the stampede to join in the festivities. Calgary is known as “Heart of the new West”.
For more, read our 10 things to do in Calgary guide.
Calgary is a mountain-high city at 1,048 metres above sea level. The climate is dry, with generally low levels of humidity.
Sitting on the prairies, Calgary gets the most sun of any of Canada’s major cities. Summers can be warm and dry with temperatures capable of reaching 30°C. More often than not it is mild, especially when compared with most of Canada. Even when it’s cold, it’s usually sunny. This can make living in Calgary in the summer a very attractive prospect.
Weather in Calgary is characterized by four distinct seasons. It almost always cools off comfortably at night, when frost can occur at any time of the year.
Winter is quite pleasant by cooler Canadian standards, with temperatures staying below -10°C for only a few weeks of the year. This season is made all the more pleasant by the city’s close proximity to the Rockies. There are so many great ski resorts to choose from, so don’t be afraid to embrace the winter snow.
The most distinctive characteristic of a Calgary winter is the Chinook. This is a warm wind from the Pacific Ocean which can raise the temperature by as much as 15 degrees in a few hours.
When the dark Chinook arch appears in the western sky, the warm wind is about to blow in. That means that one day you might be wearing your winter jacket, the next, a short-sleeved shirt and shorts.
Running enthusiasts have been known to boast that they have run in shorts on at least one day in every month of the year, even in the depths of winter.
May is typically a windy month, while June has above average rainfall. July and August are the warmest months. September and October often enjoy “Indian summer” conditions.
Calgary receives low amounts of annual rainfall, with most of its annual precipitation coming in the form of snow during the winter months.
Depending on the year and the frequency of the warm Chinook winds, winter snowfall events may only remain visible for a few days. If you were to visit Calgary in Canada, August is known to be the most pleasant month in terms of weather.